Everything Is Holy: The World

Weekly Bible Devotional

“Everything Is Holy: The World”

May 2, 2021

 

Scripture for this Sunday: Psalm 104:1-5, 10-15

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
    wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
    you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.

You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never be shaken.

 

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
11 giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.

14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
15     and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.

Notes on the Text:

According to biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, “Psalm 104, the longest creation poem, is a commentary on Genesis I. The psalmist surveys creation and names it all: the heavens and the earth, the waters and springs and streams and trees and birds and goats and wine and oil and bread and people and lions. This goes on for 23 verses and ends in the 24th with the psalmist’s expression of awe and praise for God and God’s creation. Verses 27 and 28 are something like a table prayer. They proclaim, ‘You give them all food in due season, you feed everybody.’ The psalm ends by picturing God as a great respirator. It says, ‘If you give your breath the world will live; if you ever stop breathing, the world will die.’ But the psalm makes clear that we don’t need to worry. God is utterly, utterly reliable. The fruitfulness of the world is guaranteed.”

Psalm 104 is a great reminder of the importance of God’s creation for our wellbeing. It is an amazing poem about God as the creator and sustainer of the universe. This was the common understanding of the Israelites and also of the other cultures around them. The psalmist knew about the intricate interconnectedness and subtle interdependence of air, soil, water, plants, and animals, including humans.

The psalmist knew the truth revealed in the etymological connection between the Hebrew word for “humanity” (da Adam) and the word for “ground” (adamâ): Human beings really are creatures of the earth. The origin and destiny of humankind is closely connected to the origin and destiny of the earth. The same truth is revealed in the connection between the English word human and the Latin word humus, “soil.” Science reveals to us some of the mathematical formulas that govern our universe and how connected life really is. Faith helps us to be in awe and to remember the importance of those connections. This kind of outlook is not about protecting the earth so that we can continue to consume its resources. Much of our concern for the future of the earth comes from our desire to maintain our current standard of living without trashing things so terribly or depleting natural resources so severely that we cannot pass the same style of life onto our children. Our primary concern is ourselves, and our major motivation is often fear. The famous Riverside Church pastor William Sloane Coffin once wrote, “We have divorced nature from nature’s God. We view nature essentially as a toolbox…What we need beyond caution is reverence. Unless nature is ‘re-sanctified’ we will never see nature as worthy of ethical considerations similar to those that govern human relations.”

Psalm 104 invites us to a deeper level of connection to God’s creation. This is not only about our selfish concern for our survival but it is because of our love for God that we would see God’s creation as sacred. It is about seeing the sacred in God’s handiwork. For the psalmist, relating to the world begins with praising God. The motivation is not fear but rejoicing in the Lord (vv. 33-34). Praise involves the acknowledgment of God’s presence and love for all living things.

For Reflection:

Taking the psalmist as an example, we would have to conclude that healing our connection to the world begins with the realization that the plants, the trees, and all of nature are our kin. We are connected to them through the energy of all of creation, the one we often call God.

Psalm 104 affirms that God has made every arrangement and provision for the life of the world. The only problem is when we disrupt God’s design and destroy the delicate balance God has put in place. Our call to view the world as sacred and to care for God’s creation does not mean that we are all called to sell our homes and live in the woods and go back to the Stone Age. The poet Wendell Berry, in speaking of the earth, speaks of the essence of sacrament. “I do not mean to suggest we can live harmlessly or strictly at our own expense; we depend upon other creatures and survive by their deaths. To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation…When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration . . . . In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness and others to want.” The invitation is for all of us to see how we can love our world as a gift from God for all of creation. God’s creation brings us healing by seeing the sacredness of all of life.

“If we could surrender to Earth’s intelligence, we would rise up rooted, like trees.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Psalm 104: 24-35b

Paraphrased by Nan Merrill

 

O You, who know all hearts, how

manifold are your works!

In wisdom You have created

them all;

the earth is filled with your

creatures.

We look to the seas, great and wide,

which teem with life innumerable,

helping to maintain the balance.

O, that we might receive your gifts,

taking only what is needed

with grateful hearts.

 

All of creation looks to You,

to give them food in

due season.

When we are in harmony with You,

the earth provides;

yes, a bountiful harvest to be

shared with all.

When we misuse what You have created

for us,

we blame You for the famine and

destruction that ensues,

and feel alienated from You.

Even so, You continue to send forth

your Spirit, and

the earth, though not without turmoil,

is renewed.

 

The glory of the Radiant One endures

forever, for

the works of Love are sure.

You are ever-present to us, even as

the earth trembles,

even as the mountains spew forth

ashes and smoke!

I will abandon myself into your hands

as long as I live;

I will sing praise to You

while I have breath.

May my meditations be pleasing to You,

for I rejoice and am glad in You.

May all who feel separated from You

open their hearts to new Life!

Praise the Creator of the Universe!

Bless the Heart of my heart,

O my soul!

Everything Is Holy

Weekly Bible Devotionals

Written by Pastor Roula Alkhouri

The World Ahead

The World Ahead: Flexibility and Openness

The World Ahead

The World Ahead: Alignment

The World Ahead

The World Ahead: Purpose